Adobe Director 11 Review

Adobe Director multimedia authoring software, which gained popularity during the CD-ROM era of the 90s, has released its first upgrade since Adobe acquired Macromedia in 2005. 

The last significant upgrade for Director was in 2001, with the 8.5 version. Many developers began using Director at that time, as an introduction to 3D applications. While quite a few other 3D tools have hit the scene, many still find that Director is the most useful to them. 

Naresh Gupta, Senior Vice President, Print and Publishing at Adobe noted, "With the new Director 11, users can unleash their creative capabilities and broaden their market reach with less effort, producing more engaging multimedia applications in less time. This milestone release provides a strong and flexible authoring environment that perfectly complements Adobe’s broad suite of authoring products, extending our customers’ creative reach to interactive 3D animations and games."

Historically, the Director application was utilized in the creation of the vast majority of educational CDROMs, due to its ease of use and extensive range of features, with both Apple and Microsoft operating systems.
 
The latest release was designed to include a flexible and easy-to-use authoring environment, thus enabling multimedia designers, animators and developers to create more comprehensive interactive applications, games, e-learning and other simulation based products. 
 
Rick Jones, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Director, explained at PC Magazine’s New York offices , "t’s not just for developers. It’s about 40 percent developers and 60 percent entry-level multimedia authoring."

Updated Feature Hightlights 

1. Director 11 and Shockwave support Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Mac PPC, Mac OS 10.4, and Mac OS 10.5. 

2. QuickTime 7, Windows Media and RealPlayer, support for Adobe’s own Flash CS3 and Unicode is designed to make the development of multi-lingual applications more straightforward.  

3. Either alone or with the Adobe Shockwave Player, Director 11 can be used for authoring once and publishing content for the web, CDs/DVDs and the desktop simultaneously. The environment is said to complement Adobe’s ecosystem of products, allowing for Adobe Flash SWF files to be used for Director projects, played in Director and Shockwave, and then edited with Adobe Flash CS3 Professional. 

Director may be used for multimedia applications, such as virtual architectural walkthroughs and product demonstrations; however, the new version can also create hardware-accelerated 3D games. 

With its support of Adobe Flash 9 technology and bitmap filters, Director 11’s timeline-based approach bears a slight resemblance to its Flash CS3.  Productions are created using a combination of imported media, text and scripts, with Director’s basic-like Lingo scripting language or an enhanced version of JavaScript (resembling ActionScript).

These added bonuses are designed to simplify adding characteristics, such as shadowing and glow, to text or images. An enhanced script browser is included, for breaking out the code and snippets, with drag and drop capability – slated to be a programming time saver. 
 
Gene Endrody, CEO and Founder of web-based community multiplayer game developer, MaidMarian.com, "No other technology can deliver hardware-accelerated 3D entertainment on a web page to as many people worldwide as Director and Shockwave. Director 11 enhances the ability to develop fast action 3D interactive games and virtual products, with cost efficiency, cross-platform compatibility and browser plug-in penetration superior to other authoring environments on the market."

As an example, PCMag’s Michael Muchmore, reported that Dr. Allen Partridge, the Technology Evangelist for Adobe Director and owner of Insight Interactive Games, demonstrated a realistic, fast-action motorcycle game, noting that Director is poised to provide much faster game development (months vs. years), for both casual and serious gaming. 

An estimated half billion computers have the Shockwave plug-in required to view Director content in a web browser. Games creator Caspian Learning, uses Director for its simulation games designed to solve learning issues, due to its web capability, ease of development, and stability.

Case in point: Outside the Box Software’s Chris Evans, an independent game developer based in Oceanside, California, who spent two years developing the SocioTown MMO game, using Director 11.  Mr. Evans explained, “Anytime you release an MMO game, it is going to be compared to EverQuest and other online games, but I wanted to do something that hasn’t been done before."
 
Mr. Evans built SocioTown as an interactive social network, for casual players that play around 20-30 minutes a day.  The game includes tools to help track friends, and interactions with players and non-players, as well as having the ability to map the social network. Past interactions are recorded into memory, to enable discretionary actions later.  Other features of the game include Street Boxing, which allows players to compete against one another; game play for characters, such as checkers; and shopping.  Missions in process include a laser tag event and the ability to catch bugs. 
 
Director 11 was chosen to create SocioTown by Mr. Evans, because it was familiar software, having used it since 2001 to complete some Web3D games. The ability to stream media files on the fly, support for importing multiple file types, solid install, and cross-platform markets for Win, Mac and Web, were all selling points for using Director 11 – in addition to cost considerations.

Mr. Evans has also worked on multiplayer online golf game, Pow Pow’s Mini GolfBlockHeads Clash, a four-player smashing arcade-style game; CityScape Battle, and Pow Pow’s Puzzle Attack (GameDev.net).

Training and e-learning continue to be a focus for Director. The London Observatory has used it for an interactive galaxy display, and it seems to work well in developing training applications such as those used for fast food employee types of business environments.  

Director’s extended 3D capabilities make it a good choice for game prototyping and learning materials that make use of native 3D rendering. 

Positives 

1. Market penetration. Adobe is the biggest multimedia company in the world. Shockwave still appears to have at least 40-50% market penetration, which is less than Flash Player.  However, market penetration for Unity, Virtools, Quest3D, and others is negligible. Shockwave still seems to be a favorite, for cross platform tools.  

2. Integration capabilities. Director has the ability to work with other media such as flash, as well as various video formats, in unique ways. Director still generally allows for a very flexible authoring environment. 

3. Cross platform capabilities. Unity3D is a much better tool, however, remains Mac exclusive.  While Virtools is considered one of the best, it is cost-prohibitive with unreasonable licensing parameters. Therefore, Director is the better choice for online 3d authoring.

The Verdict 

Version 11 extends Director MX 2004’s ability to create deliverables for both Mac and PC from either platform, to include Intel-based Macs and full Vista compatibility.  However, in order to view Director content online, an audience needs the 4.5MB Shockwave plug-in: a significant issue, given that Shockwave 8.5 or later is installed on less than 50% of European PCs. 
 
While improvements in the browse feature of the script editor are noted, the function  remains somewhat antiquated, in comparison to many other programming interfaces.  The list of errors and bugs found at web sites such as Director at Night, demonstrate that for some, Director 11 may not be the best option at this time.  

Where Shockwave still seems to be a cross platform tool favorite, Flash is likely to be the better choice in the vast majority of situations, such as CDROM delivery. Flash and Matchware’s Mediator 9 are much easier to use for creating e-learning and similar products.

Marketing position of the product overlaps that of Flash to such a degree that there are very few situations in which Director would be the preferred choice. In a broad sense, Flash is a natural choice for the Internet.  However, Director’s only real advantage over Flash is its native support for 3D, making it an ideal choice for 3D games, most of which are online.

Overall, the consensus seems to be that Director 11 is the latest in a long line of minor updates, which will benefit existing users much more than any new customers.  Adobe’s own Flash CS3 may ultimately be a better choice, for those who do not already own Director.  It looks like any developers who have already switched to Flash CS3, will need much more to justify returning to Developer, even with the new advances in version 11.

Finally, the cost, while not exorbitant, may still present issues for some, as upgrades will cost $299.  New purchases are priced at $999 (down from $1,199). The student version is only $99.  However, there is a free trial available, so that people can try it before committing to becoming a proud owner of Adobe’s Director 11. 

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